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Columnist's Inability to See U.S. Bias Is Understandable

March 16, 1997

It's no surprise that James Bates ("Cultural Imperialism Against Canada? Oh, Please," Feb. 18) is unable to recognize the cultural imperialism of the U. S., not just in Canada, but around the world. He is, after all, with the empire.

In Canada, the bulk of television signals received are from the United States, and on Canadian stations a good portion of programming is American. In U.S. television history, only one Canadian series, "Due South," has ever been put on prime-time network space.

In Canada, there are two major cinema chains, one owned by Viacom, the other by MCA. All American feature films receive wide release in Canada at exactly the same time and pace as in the United States. You can see Canadian films, but almost entirely at art houses. The U.S. film studios even report box-office receipts from Canada as part of U.S. domestic gross, not recognizing Canada as a separate country in their international list.

Canada's protectionist trade practices that support Canadian culture, assisting Canadian artists in film, television, music, theater and print, were mostly put into place since Canada's centennial celebrations in 1967, when national pride was at a new peak.

By ensuring radio airplay for "Canadian content," a music industry has grown that can allow artists such as Alanis Morissette and Celine Dion to develop. But have you heard of Ashley MacIsaac or Andrew Cash, who are far more indicative of Canadian music? Every Canadian knows Michael Jackson and Elvis.

By requiring "Canadian content" on television, a television industry has been created in Toronto and Vancouver. Have you seen "The Beachcombers" or "King of Kensington," two of the biggest Canadian television series of the last 25 years? Every Canadian knows "All in the Family" and "Friends."

And through favorable film financing arrangements, investors have been encouraged to back a small but important film industry that not only produces "Canadian" product, but also serves nicely as a Hollywood satellite ("safe and cheap"). Sure, you've seen "Porky's," but have you seen "Jesus of Montreal" or "Goin' Down the Road"? You can see "Star Wars" and "Independence Day" anywhere in Canada.

If the barriers in Canada were taken down today, the bulk of Canadian product that requires subsidy to survive would disappear. Anything that could be remotely profitable would be quickly bought up by multinational corporations. What would be left would be the most indistinct product--that which would most easily sell in America, the biggest market in the world. The only difference is that instead of hearing American top 40 hits on the radio 24 times a day, we'd hear them 36, as in the United States.

It's absurd to believe, as NAFTA pretends, that removal of protectionist policies will benefit all. Even with the current protectionist measures, Canada imports far, far more cultural product from America than what it exports to the United States. It is in Canada's interest to protect its local industries because that will keep jobs and capital in the country. With removal of these, Canada becomes nothing but a marketplace for American products.

Which is good from Hollywood's point of view and, presumably, therefore Mr. Bates'. But it's just not good for Canada.


North Hollywood

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